News Coronavirus States desperate as US forced to ration ventilators

States desperate as US forced to ration ventilators

Attempts to increase the production of ventilators in the US for the coronavirus crisis have still not seen the vital equipment flowing to states in need. Photo: Getty
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US states are desperately seeking ventilators as a federal government agency tries to determine where they are most needed to contend with the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 9000 ventilators are on hold by FEMA, the agency tasked with coordinating the federal response to the outbreak, with states having to effectively make a case for allocation.

The combination of scarce supply and high need has sent many states onto the open market, where they are bidding for ventilators from private manufacturers, competing against both the federal government and other states.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state is the epicentre of the pandemic in the United States, warned Thursday that New York would run out of ventilators in six days at the current rate.

FEMA has sent 4,400 ventilators to New York, where officials have said they are likely to need 20,000 to 40,000 during the crisis.

In Louisiana, where coronavirus cases are skyrocketing, Governor John Bel Edwards has requested 14,000 ventilators from the federal government and private companies. To date, the state has received just 442, including 150 that arrived Wednesday from the national stockpile.

FEMA spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow said states should not expect any shipments until they are within 72 hours of a crisis situation.

Several states have hit that point. FEMA said Wednesday that it was sending machines from the national stockpile to Michigan, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut and Louisiana.

Lawmakers have called repeatedly on the federal government to publicly account for how it is distributing ventilators and personal protective equipment but say they haven’t received answers.

The Pentagon’s announcement two weeks ago that it had 2,000 ventilators available appeared good news. But much of that stockpile is earmarked for a pair of hospital ships and military field hospitals being deployed to take some of the patient load off other facilities.

President Donald Trump has defended his administration’s deployment of ventilators and said the federal government is doing all it can. He has taken steps to compel General Motors to make more of the machines, though the company was already moving in that direction before the president’s order. He issued an order Thursday under the Defence Production Act aimed at ensuring manufacturers have the supplies to make the machines.

GM said in a statement with Ventec on Friday that they expect to deliver the first ventilators next month and will initially produce more than 10,000 per month.

Ford, in collaboration with GE Healthcare, said Tuesday that it expects to produce 50,000 of the ventilators within the next 100 days.